STARKVILLE, Miss. (MSU Athletics/WTVA) - A historic night at the "Carnegie Hall of College Baseball" saw five-straight strikeouts to start the game for redshirt-junior starting pitcher Ethan Small. The offense exploded for 14 runs between the sixth and eighth innings in the season-opening 14-3 victory over Youngstown State on Friday (Feb. 15) night at the new Dudy Noble Field.
The 8,503 fans in attendance saw the unveiling of the "Thunder and Lightning" statues honoring Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro, and a ceremonial first pitch from legendary head coach Ron Polk before the first game in the new $68-million home of Diamond Dawg baseball.
With the Bulldog (1-0) offense off to a slow start, Small struck out the first five Penguin (0-1) batters he faced on his way to a career-best 11 strikeouts. His total was one more than his 10-strokeout effort against Utah Valley on March 9, 2018. Overall, he allowed two runs on four hits and didn't walk a batter in five innings of work.
After the Penguins added a run off of senior reliever Peyton Plumlee in the top of the sixth inning to make it 3-0 in favor of the visiting team, State responded with three runs in the bottom half of the inning to knot the score. The big hit came via a two-run home run from sophomore Tanner Allen to tie the game at 3-3, while sophomore Jordan Westburg plated the first RBI with a double.
The eighth inning featured 11 runs on nine hits, including a three-run home run by Elijah MacNamee and two-RBI hits from junior Gunner Halter and sophomore Rowdey Jordan. Allen added a pair of RBIs in the inning, Westburg plated a run with a single and sophomore Josh Hatcher collected a pinch-hit RBI single.
Plumlee tossed two innings and allowed one run on one hit. He walked one and struck out two. Graduate student Cole Gordon threw a perfect eighth inning to extend his scoreless streak to 16 2/3 innings, dating back to last season. Junior Colby White allowed one and struck out three batters in his first appearance in the maroon and white.
In the process, head coach Chris Lemonis earned his first victory as the Bulldogs skipper. Lemonis joins eight other Bulldog head coaches that won their first contest as head coach. John Cohen, Jimmy Bragan, Paul E. Gregory, S.L. Robinson, F.P. Plass, S.A. Jehl, S.W. Scales and G.C. Creelman all won their first game as the Maroon and White's head coach. Polk won the first game of his second stint as the MSU skipper in 2002.
Head Coach Chris Lemonis
On the atmosphere
"It was pretty good, huh? I told our guys that we are going to take it in while we take the national anthem because it was just really cool to stand out there and to have just the whole day-- going to the pregame ceremony, meeting the former players. It's just been a cool day all the way around, but the atmosphere was awesome."
On the offense coiming around late
"If there is anything I know about our offense is that it's going to come around eventually. As a starting pitcher, there was never a moment where I doubted them. They're slapping balls over the field right at people and that's baseball, as everybody says. Seeing them come back and score 14 runs, it was just like, 'well, I knew it was coming.' For me, it was just staying on my process and taking in what's coming."
On his home run to get the Bulldogs back in the game
"It was a moment I'll never forget, hitting a home run on Opening Day at Dudy Noble, especially the "New Dude." The first couple of hits, it felt like every ball we hit hard, [but it] went right to somebody. Finally, we got a ball in the open swing zone, [I] put a good swing at it and tied the ball game."
Ethan Small – Fanned a career-high 11 batters in five innings of work. Allowed two runs on three hits and didn't walk a batter.
Tanner Allen – Tied a career-high with four RBIs and scored a career-best three runs. Posted two hits, including his sixth-career home run
Jordan Westburg – Tied his career-highs with four hits and three runs scored. Added two RBIs on the night.
Cole Gordon – Extended his scoreless innings streak to 16 2/3 innings with a clean eighth inning. Struck out two.
Collecting Hits – Nine Diamond Dawgs collected hits on the night, including multi-hit games from Allen, MacNamee and Westburg.
Putting it in Play – On the night, Mississippi State posted 14 hits and walked four times in 44 plate appearances. The Bulldogs also struck out just twice.
Collecting the First – Landon Jordan collected his first collegiate hit in his first collegiate start at designated hitter. Gunner Halter had a pair of RBIs and one hit in his first start for Mississippi State. Colby White threw a scoreless frame with three strikeouts in his Bulldog debut.
Colin Clark – Threw 5 1/3 innings and allowed just three runs on four hits. He walked one and struck out one.
Trevor Wiersma – Drove in three RBIs, including a two-run home run.
Youngstown State opened the scoring with a two-run home run off of Small in the fourth inning. After Jeff Wehler led off the inning with a single, Small stuck out the next batter, before Trevor Wiersma hit the two-run home run to right-center field.
Youngstown State 2, Mississippi State 0
The Penguins put the first two base runners on via single and walk against MSU reliever Peyton Plumlee. A wild pitch moved the lead runner to third base and, with one out, a ground out scored YSU's third run of the game.
Youngstown State 3, Mississippi State 0
The State offense got rolling in the bottom half of the sixth inning, starting with a leadoff double from Jake Mangum. After a ground out, Jordan Westburg doubled, scoring Mangum, and Tanner Allen knotted the score with his sixth career home run to left field.
Mississippi State 3, Youngstown State 3
The offense exploded in the eighth inning, scoring 11 runs on nine hits. The first eight batters reached base, with all eight coming around to score, and six different MSU hitter drove in RBIs. MacNamee smacked a three-run home run, Allen added a pair of RBI singles, and Rowdey Jordan and Halter each had a two-RBI hit in the frame. Westbug and Hatcher each added RBIs in the inning, as well. Justin Foscue, Rowdey Jordan, Westburg and Allen each reached base twice in the inning, with Allen, Jordan and Westburg each scoring two runs in the frame.
Mississippi State 14, Youngstown State 3
The Bulldogs return to Dudy Noble Field for a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 16 starting at Noon.
Ceremonies surrounding day two of opening weekend will include an on-field recognition of all former Diamond Dawgs and the ceremonial first pitches from Jeff Brantley, Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro at 11:35 a.m. All baseball alumni should meet at the Diamond Dawg tailgate at 11:20 a.m. in upper Left Field Lounge terrace to then be escorted down to the field. The Baseball Alumni Tailgate will open at 10 a.m. in upper terrace in Left Field Lounge.
The inaugural Ron Polk Ring of Honor class will be inducted between games one and two on Saturday, with the ceremony being streamed live on the video board.
Sunday's game ticket can be used for entry into the games Saturday, but will be honored as general admission or standing room only tickets. All Saturday reserved seat tickets will be valid for entry into the reserved seating areas.